There are thousands of photographs in the Rice archives, but one of the things in fairly short supply are pictures taken inside dorm rooms. We always look pretty intently when we find one. (If you have any, please let me know.) For some reason, the members of the early classes took–or at least kept–more than others. And their rooms look quite barren compared to those of more recent times. They just didn’t have very much stuff.
The pictures here come from the scrapbook of a member of the Class of 1916 named Elmer Shutts. (I’ll have a longer post about him soon.) They seem typical–every room I’ve seen has been decorated with college pennants, some from Rice but more from other schools. I don’t really know what this was all about. They may have collected them from places they visited, or they may have had friends at those schools, or they may have simply thought they looked “collegiate.” And the flowers on the dresser are a nice touch. (Our man Shutts was a bit of a dandy.)
More interesting to me is this second picture. In a classic undergraduate male move, Shutts has covered a wall with pinups of attractive ladies. (These are apparently what “hotties” looked like circa 1915.) I was immediately struck by the larger framed rectangular picture near the bottom. On closer inspection, it’s clear that it is a print of Paul Chabas’s 1912 painting, “September Morn.” This nude caused a sensation, not to say a scandal, when it was displayed in New York but quickly took on a life of its own as reproductions and parodies spread and continued to spread for the next fifty or so years. I think it’s a bit cheeky of Shutts to have it up in his room, but the cultural connotations of this work became so complicated so fast that we can never know what he meant when he hung it. Upon reflection, I suppose the most likely explanation is that it’s just a picture of a naked woman.
For your amusement, here‘s an interesting site totally devoted to archiving images related to “September Morn.”